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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Getting Confident with Referrals

Approaching clients for referrals is not rocket science. It's merely a matter of confidence. In the absence of confidence is doubt, uncertainty and fear. Asking clients to give you referrals is mostly a matter of your confidence.
So, how do you gain confidence?
  1. Know your "script." The more certain and practiced you are with your approach to get clients to talk about introductions, the more confident you will be. The more confident you appear, the better response you will receive from your clients. Be comfortable with your words and practice them until it feels natural.
  2. Know where you want to take the conversation. A classic mistake most financial professionals make when asking for referrals is that they make it a totally one-sided conversation. "Who do you know who I can help?" The client usually draws a blank and the conversation fizzles. It's better when you have a place you'd like the conversation to go. Make it a collaborative conversation. "Can we brainstorm for a couple of minutes about who you think should know about the important work that I do? In fact, I have a couple of ideas I'd like to run by you, just to see what you think."
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A Check List to Get More Referrals

  • Have and use a systematic approach to stay in touch with your clients to continue to build value and build business friendships.

  • Talk to your clients about how you will handle the referrals they might send to you. Ensure them that everything you discuss is completely confidential, and that you take a very soft approach to this process. You will handle their referrals with great care.

  • Teach your clients why introductions are necessary these days. Explain that people procrastinate with financial work and that you have found it very important to be able to reach out - appropriately - to gain their attention.

  • When you ask for referrals, don't just throw open the whole universe to them by saying "Who do you know who I can help?" Come prepared to either brainstorm - with several names and categories, or come with 1-3 very specific introductions you'd like to obtain. "How do you feel about introducing me to your uncle Ernie?"

  • Discuss what the client thinks they need to say to their friend, family member, or colleague. "What do you think you need to say to George to pique his interest in hearing from me? How do you think he'll react?"

  • Do not be overly persistent with your new prospects. After you leave one or two emails or voice mails (a combination of no more than two), and you haven't heard back, get on the phone with the referral source and discuss your next course of action. If your clients perceive you as being to assertive with their friends and family, they will stop giving you referrals.

  • See if you can attend meetings and events with your clients to gain in-person introductions. Many of your clients belong to trade associations, community service groups, and hobby groups. Tell your client you'd love to learn more about their industry or interest, and ask if you can tag along as a guest.

  • Continue reading...

    Get Referrals Without Asking

    Here's a checklist of strategies  you can use to make sure you are doing everything possible to get more referrals - with or without asking.
    1. Ask good questions. You provide value through the questions you ask.
    2. Always lead with value. If you look to provide value at every turn, you will build trust and become more referable from the very beginning of any new relationship.
    3. Always tell the truth. It's not always easy to question a prospect or client's assumptions. It's not always easy to deliver the bad news. Doing so, however, will build trust, loyalty, and referability.
    4. Always, always, always, discuss expectations in your relationships. Do this early and often. How can you meet your clients' expectations if you don't know what they are?
    5. Communicate your value proposition to prospects, clients, and centers of influence confidently, clearly, and succinctly. As Leo Pusateri would ask you, "Are you a black belt in how you articulate your value?"
    6. Build business friendships with your clients. Create a relationship that goes beyond the core business you do together. People do business with and give referrals to people they like.
    7. Create and USE a client-service promise that guides you as to when and how you stay in touch with your clients. They will appreciate you having this model and sticking to it.
    8. Promote referrals. There are many ways to do this. Here's one, say to your clients, "I'm never too busy to see if I can be a resource for your friends, family, and colleagues."
    Use this checklist to make sure you are doing everything you can to get referrals without asking.
    Continue reading...

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    Getting Referrals Requires the Right Perspective

    In a practice genuinely focused on clients rather than on production, referrals make all the difference. In the best interests of both, you'd better let your clients know it.
    Of course, that word "genuinely" can be a stumbling block. Ostensibly, we all have our clients' needs foremost in our minds, right? But it's so much more than that. It means setting your mind on considering only what's best for the client, not because it's expeditious for the business, but because of the benefits to the people you serve.
    Many advisors wrestle with this concept. They struggle to make decisions that would be best for clients because they just seem to think of themselves. That's endemic in a sales culture where it feels as if the prime directive is to get something from someone else. Even today, when "consultants" and "full service" and "financial planning" are the rage and, therefore, you'd think the emphasis would be on giving something of real value to clients, the thrust of most training for financial professionals is how to influence people or, more plainly, how to get something from everyone you meet.
    In the midst of a persistent production mentality, the Trusted Advisor stands out as being honestly able to put other people first, even if it means asking them to do something that may appear to be more "work," such as meeting in the advisor's office instead of their home. It doesn't matter that prospective clients have to do more than they would if the advisor just accommodated them. Instead, what matters is that the best possible experience for the client comes from just a tiny bit more effort on the client's part. What's a thirty-minute drive in the context of someone's entire financial future?
    I'm not writing this article to instruct you in what to say to people to get them to put in more effort. My point is that the way you do business should, in every instance, reflect your sincere desire to put the client first. One of the most important areas where this must hold true is in gathering referrals. Don't wimp out on this critical business practice, which is instrumental not only to your own professional success, but more importantly to the quality of service you can provide to your clients.
    With the "get something" mindset, asking for referrals can take some serious chutzpah. After all, you just earned thousands or tens of thousands of dollars from insurance and investments and planning, and there you are, with your hand out, asking for more! "Now that you've given me all your money, can you introduce me to a bunch of people so I can take their money, too?" Only the most hardened salespeople can pull that off without sounding embarrassed to be asking.
    Worse, some salespeople tie referrals to compensation. You know the script: "I get paid two ways-by commission (or fee) for taking care of you and your money and by referrals." Referrals are not about the number of ways you get paid. It is not about you, period.
    A business that finds future clients by referrals instead of prospecting and marketing simply does a better job for its clients. The act of asking for referrals should be the reason why people should give them to you in the first place. It's better for them if they do. For example, it's as if you were running a country club, and you asked members to invite friends to become members. This way, instead of coming up with clever ads and spending money on billboards, you could focus on finding and training the best chef so members can have great meals, the best golf pros, so members can improve their game, or the best masseuse so members can relax, Then they will spend money on things that will benefit them, such as grounds maintenance, beautiful furnishings, and so on.
    In a country club, it's a given that there are an optimal number of members: enough to secure adequate revenues, but not enough to make tee times impossible to get. The management knows it, and the members know it, and they both work to get to that number as quickly as possible so that the management can focus on nothing but members' comfort and enjoyment of the club. You get the point.
    You can use this analogy in talking to your clients about referring their friends, colleagues, and family to you. But beware, if you're starting to see this as a way to "position" referrals, you're shanking the ball. Salespeople will see this as a "great line," but for Trusted Advisors, it's not a line at all. It's what they know to be true. If you tell your clients that you need their referrals for their benefit and you don't really believe that, they will know it. As a result, you will either get crummy referrals or none at all.
    Follow the referral process that Bill Cates teaches you (The Referral Advantage Program®). Don't deprive your clients and strategic alliances of one of the finest feelings they can have - referring people to you that need your services. Expect that they will give you the names of everyone they know who fits your ideal client profile. If you expect two referrals, you will probably only get two referrals. What would happen if you expected to get 24, 33, 47, or whatever number you pick? You will get more when you expect more. Remember, it's not about you, it's about them. Don't be a salesperson; be a Trusted Advisor.

    Continue reading...

    3 Simple Referral Reminders

    Here are 3 simple referral reminders and some NEW tools to help you acquire more and better clients through referrals:
    Are you as referable as you need to be? Do you have a robust process that you put all your prospects through? Is your process referable? Are you getting referrals from prospects and brand new clients just because they grew - just a little - from the process you put them through? I urge you to review this initial process yearly - making it as timely and as valuable as possible.

    Are you enhancing your referability over time? Do you present your Client Service Promise to your clients and then live up to that promise? Are you reviewing this promise (on your own or with your team) at least once per year to make sure it's the best you can do?

    Are you coming to your meetings prepared to ask for referrals or are you just winging it? Coming prepared builds confidence. Come prepared by knowing what you're going to say (your script or track) and where you want to take the conversation (people and categories to suggest).
    Continue reading...

    8 Tips for Staying in Touch with Referral Prospects - Part 2

    Here are 4 more ideas. No magic bullets here, but some sound ideas for you to use.
    # 5 - Create a Flow of Value
    I believe that a critical element in keeping referral prospects in your pipeline is the concept of "always adding value." We must continue to look for ways to add value to the relationship in various ways. If you aren't looking to add value with each phone call - and even between phone calls - then why are you even contacting them? You can't keep calling them and saying, "Are you ready to meet with me now?" or some similar question.
    Most effective prospectors work several contact strategies at the same time. For instance, you might put your prospects on a list to receive your monthly newsletter or weekly financial tips. Electronic methods have their place, but aren't usually enough.
    At Referral Coach International, we've created a VIP List of about 200 high level prospects, clients, and Centers of Influence. Every other month we mail (yes, regular mail or sometimes UPS) them something of value. Over the years, we've mailed books, audio CDs, DVDs, reports, lists, etc. (Note, I'm not restricted by the compliance regulations that most of our readers are, but there are many sources for these items that are "compliance friendly.")
    I highly recommend you work with your staff, manager, team members, and colleagues to create a matrix of various ways you can drip value to your prospects over time.
    # 6 - Set Aside Phone Prospecting Days or Slots
    I've found it quite helpful to make appointments with myself to call prospects. I schedule time on my calendar and treat it just like an appointment with a prospect or client. In fact, it really is an appointment with a prospect - a bunch of prospects. When I schedule follow-up calls with various prospects, I try to funnel them into the slots I've already set aside for such calls, whenever possible.
    The key here is to truly honor these appointments with yourself. If you have a busy practice, it's easy to get distracted, or allow a little bit of "call reluctance" to interfere with this critical behavior.
    #7 - Go for the "No"
    While I believe in being professionally persistent with referral prospects, I don't like to beat a dead horse - so to speak. If my prospect shows interest and responds favorably to my continued contact, I remain in touch.
    When I have a prospect who seems to have no interest, I usually do one of three things:
    1. I stop contacting them and free up my time to focus on generating new prospects and serving my current clients.
    2. I look for other ways to be referred to them again. When I have a prospect that I know I can help and/or represents a large amount of business for my company, I look for other people to refer me to this prospect again. Many times I've found someone else who knows this prospect and ask them to put a good word in for me. This is often all it takes to get the prospect active again.
    3. I go for the "no." This is a technique I learned from the late, great sales trainer Dave Sandler. When I have a prospect who keeps putting me off, I say something like, "George, please tell me if I'm wrong, but I'm getting the impression that we may never have the opportunity to do business together. Do you think that's true?"
    Sometimes my prospects say, "Yes" and I'm free to pursue others. And sometimes, my prospect lets me know they are still interested and often reveal new information that allows us to keep the relationship alive.
    #8 - Use Events to Connect with Referral Prospects
    Over the years, I've run into a few financial professionals who use events as ways to remain in contact with prospects. These events can be educational (value added) or fun (building rapport and trust through social interaction).
    For example, Russ is a financial advisor near Houston. Since he's quite adept at generating a steady flow of referral prospects, he always has an "inventory" of prospects he just can't seem to meet with or move the relationship forward. So, he hosts social events (like wine tastings) just for these prospects. No clients allowed - just referral prospects. At his last event, he had 19 referral prospects attend and 7 of them moved forward to become clients. Brilliant!
    While I don't have the magic bullet or the perfect formula for you, I hope you found some ideas you can implement.
    Remember! Ideas alone do not make you more successful. Acting on ideas makes you more successful.

    Continue reading...

    8 Tips for Staying in Touch with Referral Prospects - Part 1

    # 1 - Keep the Referral Prospect in the Loop
    One unique quality of a prospect you obtained through a referral is that there is a third party involved in this effort to bring value to this new prospect. Of course, referral sources (Clients and Centers of Influences) vary in their "investment" in you. It's always a good idea to keep these folks in the loop when doing business with the prospect. When you have difficulty making contact with the prospect, these folks can often help you along. If you have trouble piquing the interest of the prospect, sometimes the referral source can come to the rescue.
    Obviously, you need to be careful about revealing any proprietary information that you may have discovered about your prospect. Also, you need to be diplomatic about other information. However, keep the referral source as an ally in this process and use them when you can.
    # 2 - Keep Good Records
    I don't know about you, but whenever I don't keep good records of my conversations with prospects, my efforts to remain in touch are ineffective and seem to fizzle. Relying on my memory just doesn't cut it. How about you?
    To "keep the sale alive" we must be in the habit of keeping good records of our conversations. We have to have enough detail so we remember the flow of our conversation. If we can't remember what we said or they said on the last call, we - most likely - won't feel comfortable picking up the phone. It will be awkward. We won't know how to add value. The prospecting process dies.
    #3 - Pre-Plan Your Next Step
    One solid habit I've been able to establish is the habit of planning my next contact either before I finish the call with the prospect (something we figure out together) or right after the call ends. Sometimes, especially when the prospect is actively interested, but there is a timing issue, you can work with them to determine the next time and reason for the next call.
    I like to plan the time and strategy for the next call while that conversation is fresh in my mind. I record my ideas in my call notes and everything comes back to me as I prepare for the next call.
    #4 - Have a Solid Reminder System in Place
    What system do you use to make sure no prospects fall through the cracks? I hope you have one. And I hope you're not relying on a paper system anymore. Okay, paper systems have worked for thousands of years, but I think you should take advantage of all the efficiencies computers and smartphones offer in this area.
    After each call with a new prospect, I plan my next strategy, I figure out the timing. Then I set an alarm on my computer that pops up the reminder at the appropriate time. In this way, I can let go of that prospect - for the time being - knowing that no one will fall through the cracks.

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